Optimum age to learn to swim?

Guest Blog from swimmer Fedelma Ryan.

First, in my twenties, a new husband tried to teach me to swim and failed totally. It is a tribute to his fortitude that he is still with me. I am not a natural swimmer, small of stature, lacking natural coordination and athletic ability….but not determination.
So, over subsequent decades, I tried the patience of teachers and friends, but still never managed it. In my fifties, an advertisement promised to turn me into a swimmer in one week. After that week, I was still a non-swimmer, but had acquired a new goal — just to tread water was my ambition.
Then one day, another teacher taught me I could do the breast stroke. I feel indebted to her for starting me on a journey to hours of pleasure and enhanced well-being. But I still wanted to be able to swim properly. That aspiration brought me to Total Immersion…and finally to Susan.
From this overly-long experience, there are myths I now want to dispel:
  • There is no such condition as ‘not being able to learn swim’…..you just haven’t met the right teacher.


  • There is no such state as ‘being able to swim’….it is a constant process of improvement.
  • Swimming is intrinsically health promoting….but not if you reck your neck by never learning to to put your face in the water, or damage your back because of a bad kick.
  • Doing lengths are boring….but not if you are concentrating on making your head relaxed, or getting your elbow in the right position. The combination of the water and meditating on the stroke does not bore, it refreshes and invigorates.
  • Finally don’t assume you can’t swim because you are having lessons. People go to yoga classes for their whole lives without being asked why they did not learn earlier.
Poor Susan, she will never get rid of me as a student, because I will never be able to swim like her. But I will always enjoy the process of trying. Each lesson is a challenge .
That motivation is reinforced every time I swim. No matter in what mood you enter the water, you come out invigorated. This is not just an amateur talking: the physical well-being of swimmers versus non swimmers is comparable to feeling 12 years younger. And swimmers suffer less anxiety and depression (Swimming.org 2019).
And there’s are other rewards…Happy Discovery!
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